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Is odd-even whim of an officer or Delhi govt, asks NGT

The NGT asked why odd-even was not implemented when air quality was ‘poor’, and why the government waited till the air quality reached ‘hazardous’ levels.

Written by Shradha Chettri | New Delhi | Published: November 12, 2017 4:23:03 am
Delhi, Delhi pollution, Delhi smog, NGT, Odd-Even Scheme, Delhi odd-even, Delhi news, Indian Express Traffic policemen wear masks to protect themselves from air pollution in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI Photo/File)

Asking whether the decision to implement the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme was a “whim and thought of a particular officer or Delhi government as a whole”, the National Green Tribunal Saturday came down heavily on the AAP government.

During a hearing attended by representatives of the Delhi government and neighbouring states, the civic bodies and transport officials, NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar asked why odd-even was not implemented earlier, when the air quality was ‘poor’, and why the government waited till the air quality reached ‘hazardous’ levels.

“It places obligation on all boards and authorities to anticipate damage by pollutants and take precautionary measures at appropriate stage, and not wait for the crisis to come,” he said.

The AAP government had on Thursday announced the odd-even scheme from November 13-17, but Saturday announced it won’t implement it from Monday — after the NGT ordered that two-wheelers and women drivers cannot be exempted.

During the hearing, the Delhi government counsel argued that odd-even was required at current pollution levels, as per the Graded Response Action Plan. Unsatisfied with the response, the NGT asked about the exemptions under different categories, including for two-wheelers. “What premise, rationality and scientific evidence have you used to give the exemption,” asked the tribunal. The counsel replied: “It is not done scientifically.”

The Tribunal also rapped government authorities for non-compliance with its earlier orders, and asked if they had “actually read” the order passed in 2016. The DTC general manager replied in the negative, prompting the Tribunal to pull up the official: “It was an order directly passed to your department. How can you reply that you have not read it?”

The NGT also asked the government how many diesel vehicles have been impounded after the ban on old diesel vehicles. The counsel replied, “Vehicles older than 10 years are not used.”

Calling it the “biggest joke”, the Tribunal said, “In the last one-and-a-half years, if you (the government) had removed diesel vehicles older than 10 years, you would have removed 30% of these polluting vehicles.”

The court also pulled up civic bodies for not being able to challan big builders to curb dust-related pollution. The Delhi government pointed out that major construction activities in the city were being carried out by the National Highways Authority of India, the National Buildings Construction Corporation and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. The Tribunal then issued a showcause notice to the three bodies.

Asking the Delhi government to reconsider its decision on increasing parking fee, the Tribunal said it is “no solution for an environmental issue”. “The money is not coming to the government; it is only a way to make private contractors rich,” the NGT said.

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